France to give armoured vehicles to Lebanese army – defence minister


Paris (Reuters) – France will send dozens of armoured vehicles to the Lebanese army so it can properly carry out patrol missions in the country, France’s defence minister said in remarks published on Monday.

Speaking to Lebanon’s L’Orient Le Jour newspaper after a trip to the country, Sebastien Lecornu said it was vital to beef up the Lebanese national army so that it could coordinate well with the United Nations peacekeeping force as tensions mount between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

“We will pursue our partnership with military equipment, notably for the transport of troops protected by armour, which is key to maintain patrols,” he said, adding that several dozen armoured vehicles would be given to the Lebanese army soon.

“Our support for the Lebanese army is for the long-term whatever the current difficulties,” Lecornu added.

Paris will also provide medicines and is setting up a joint programme to purchase medical supplies at reasonable prices for the Lebanese army in the future, he said.

France has sought to use its historical relationship with Lebanon to try to defuse tensions between Israel and Hezbollah, but violence has spiked.

Some 700 French soldiers are part of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) established in 1978 following violence on the Israel-Lebanon border.

Hezbollah, a Shi’ite Muslim armed group classed by the United States and others as a terrorist organisation, wields enormous power in Lebanon, whose economy is in ruins and whose state is barely functioning. Lebanese leaders fear clashes between Hezbollah and Israel could flare into a major conflict.

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